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Jewish World Review Nov. 5, 2002 / 30 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Michael Ledeen

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End of the Road: Iran's Mohammed Khatami, on his way out | Last Wednesday two leading members of the Iranian parliament were killed when their automobile went off the road into a ravine north of Tehran. You would be hard-pressed to find an informed citizen who thinks it was an accident; and the Ayatollah Taheri, the now-celebrated cleric who resigned as the leading religious hierarch of Isfahan, announced they had been executed by the regime, and went on to denounce the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamanei, and his band of thugs.

Taheri has been a constant critic of the Khamenei tyranny for some time, but had been left free because of his considerable prestige and support from other leading ayatollahs. But this outburst was too much, and orders were given to arrest him. However, when the police tried to carry out the orders, they found the citizens of Isfahan - long considered the most-rebellious city in the country - ready to fight in defense of Taheri, and the police were forced to inform Khamenei that they were unable to arrest Taheri. The uneasy and potentially explosive standoff continues.

The two dead parliamentarians included Ali-Reza Nouri, the brother of a former interior minister, and, like his brother, an outspoken opponent of the regime. Ali-Reza had been a supporter of Iran's enfeebled president, Mohammad Khatami, but recently announced his intention to demand Khatami's resignation, which might have precipitated even greater public outcries and demonstrations against the regime.

It is hard to see how even such a timid and impotent figure as Khatami can remain in office. He made a gesture of bravado last month by introducing two bills, both passed by parliament, insisting that the religious leaders had no power to overrule his actions. The most-revered religious figure in Iran, the Ayatollah Montazeri - now in his sixth year of house arrest in Isfahan - proclaimed that in fact Khatami was right, and the exercise of such arbitrary power by the regime was not permitted by the Constitution. But Khamenei and his henchmen have no interest in such legal niceties, and continue to veto any and all efforts to introduce pockets of freedom into the life of the Islamic Republic, and so far have demonstrated the will to arrest, torture, and kill anyone who tries to challenge them. Well-informed Iranians with whom I have spoken believe that the "accident" that befell Nouri and his colleague was an explicit warning to Khatami: If you dare challenge us further, you will end up the same way.

Meanwhile, the killing continues relentlessly, with public hangings and stonings the order of the day. And the silence of the West continues apace. Fascinating, isn't it, that the human-rights establishment goes ballistic over the scheduled stoning of one Nigerian woman, but says hardly a word about the three recent stonings in Iran, with more in the works? And it's equally fascinating that neither the Department of State nor the staff of the National Security Council denounces the wave of repression under way in Iran. What can explain the apparent indifference of Colin Powell and Richard Armitage in Foggy Bottom, and Elliott Abrams at the NSC? Do they find Iranians less deserving of human rights than Nigerians? And what can explain the interminable silence of the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, as well as the major news networks, to the butchery of the Islamic Republic? At the time of the Khomeini Revolution, journalists such as Robin Wright and Elaine Sciolino decried the shah's sins. Why do they now blunt their pens?

In any event, the regime now finds itself between many large rocks and innumerable hard places, as demonstrated by the constantly self-contradictory statements issued from the mouths of the mullahs. They punish anyone who suggests it would be goo for Iran to have better relations with the United States, yet they pursue improved relations themselves, most recently by sending a new ambassador to the United Nations with a public mandate to woo American officials and opinion makers. One day they promise to fight against any American action against Iraq, and the next they promise not to intervene if there is a U.N. resolution to that end. They issue a statement promising to support a two-state "solution" to the Palestinian question if the Palestinians accept it, and then swear eternal enmity to Israel and denounce anyone who supports a two-state policy. They deny the presence of al Qaeda terrorists on Iranian soil, and then leak the "news" that a son of Osama bin Laden entered Iran, and was immediately expelled to Pakistan, or maybe it was Saudi Arabia. But Western experts know that hundreds of al Qaeda fighters and leaders have either transited Iran, or remain there in safe havens.

Like the rest of the terror masters, and their appeasers in Europe, the Iranians are trying desperately to buy time, hoping against hope that President Bush will lose his nerve and call off the revolutionary war. They will say and do anything that gets them through another day, but they know that once the war starts they are doomed.

Faster, please. Don't let the war against terrorism turn into a replay of the Gulf War, with the tyrants still in power.

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JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of, most recently, The War Against the Terror Masters. Comment by clicking here.


10/29/02: The Angleton Dialogues, Contnued: What George Tenet doesn’t know
10/24/02: The Iranian Comedy Hour: In the U.S., the silence continues
10/16/02: Sniper, Saboteur, or Sleeper? Channeling James Jesus Angleton
10/01/02: The real foe
09/27/02: The Iranian String Quartet: The mullahs get increasingly nervous
09/25/02: The Dubya Doctrine
09/23/02: Intelligence? What intelligence?
09/12/02: America's revenge: To turn tyrannies into democracies
09/10/02: Iran & Afghanistan & Us: We'll have to deal with the mullahcracy, sooner or later
09/04/02: Iran, according to the Times: All the nonsense that's fit to print
08/21/02: Life and death of Abu Nidal tells us a great deal about our enemies
08/08/02: Can You Keep a Secret?: The media silence on Iran
08/06/02: Fantasy Reporting: The latest disinformation from the Washington Post
08/02/02: Propping Up the Terror Masters: Europe's Solana on tour
07/16/02: Bush vs. the Mullahs: Getting on the side of the Iranian freedom fighters
07/12/02: The State Department Goes Mute: It's official: State has no message
07/09/02: History being made, but the West appears clueless
06/05/02: Is George Tenet endangering peace in Israel?
06/03/02: Ridiculous, even for a journalist
05/20/02: So how come nobody's been fired yet?
05/14/02: Open doors for thugs
04/20/02: Iran on the Brink … and the U.S. does nothing
04/16/02: It’s the war, stupid … someone remind Colin Powell
04/08/02: Gulled: In the Middle East, Arafat doesn't matter
04/02/02: Faster, Please: The war falters
03/26/02: The Revolution Continues: What's brewing in Iran
03/18/02: Iran simmers still: Where's the press?
03/05/02: We can't lose any more ground in Iran
02/14/02: The Great Iranian Hoax
02/12/02: Unnoticed Bombshell: Key information in a new book
01/31/02: The truth behind the Powell play
01/29/02: My past with "Johnny Jihad's" lawyer
01/21/02: It's Munich, all over again
01/08/02: What's the Holdup?: It's time for the next battles in the war against terrorism
12/11/01: We must be imperious, ruthless, and relentless
12/06/01: Remembering my family friend, Walt Disney
11/28/01: The Barbara Olson Bomb: Understanding the war
11/13/01: How We're Doing: The Angleton Files, IV
11/06/01: A great revolutionary war is coming
10/25/01: How to talk to a terrorist
10/23/01: Creative Reporting: Learning to appreciate press briefings
10/19/01: Not the Emmys: A Beltway award presentation
10/15/01: Rediscovering American character
10/11/01: Somehow, I've missed Arafat's praise of the first stage of our war on terrorism
10/04/01: What do we not know?
09/28/01: Machiavelli On Our War: Some advice for our leaders
09/25/01: No Room for the U.N.: Keeping Annan & co. out of the picture
09/21/01: Creative destruction
09/14/01: Who Killed Barbara Olson?
08/22/01: How Israel will win this war
08/15/01: Bracing for war
08/09/01: More Dithering Democrats
08/02/01: Delirious Dems
07/31/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit, cont'd
07/19/01: Be careful what you wish for
07/17/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit
07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen